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Options for medical professionals facing complaints of impairment

| Jan 22, 2021 | Professional License Issues |

Medical professionals who are in danger of losing their license due to a complaint of illegal drug use may find themselves at the mercy of a medical board hearing examiner. The Pennsylvania Code states that this person has the authority to adjudicate cases and issue orders.

Hearings are often as comprehensive and exhaustive as any court case. A recovery program may be a viable alternative for some.

The hearing

In gathering evidence for the hearing, the Medical Board may have a medical consultant examine an allegedly impaired professional. Consultants may present their findings at the hearing and may also provide other expert testimony.

The hearing examiner may call on other expert witnesses to testify as to the standard of care and the risks to patients, and the nature of the complaint. Experts should have the education, training, experience and knowledge to speak about the professional’s specialty and sub-specialty. This includes having a license to practice medicine and recent active clinical practice or recent teaching of medicine.

Either party can provide witnesses, and the hearing examiner has the authority to question and cross-examine them. The hearing examiner also has the authority to subpoena records, papers, documents and books that are relevant to the case.

An alternative

Some professionals may be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Recovery Program, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The mandatory consent agreement requires complete abstinence from controlled substances or alcohol, as well as the fulfillment of the following:

  • Personal data sheet
  • Participation cooperation form
  • Assessment and treatment
  • Agreement not to work in a licensed position without clearance
  • Compliance with treatment provider continuing care plans
  • Adherence to all practice limitations

The case manager provides oversight and guidance and may provide permission to return to limited practice or other releases as he or she deems fitting.

Because the VRP requires an admission of guilt, it may not be the right option for a professional. In some cases, it may be better to contest the complaint.

 

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